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J Chem Ecol. 2005 May;31(5):1003-21.

Herbivore-induced plant volatiles trigger sporulation in entomopathogenic fungi: the case of Neozygites tanajoae infecting the cassava green mite.

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International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, 08 BP 0932, Cotonou, Republic of Benin.


A large body of evidence shows that plants release volatile chemicals upon attack by herbivores. These volatiles influence the performance of natural enemies. Nearly all the evidence on the effect of plant volatiles on natural enemies of herbivores concerns predators, parasitoids, and entomophagous nematodes. However, other entomopathogens, such as fungi, have not been studied yet for the way they exploit the chemical information that the plant conveys on the presence of herbivores. We tested the hypothesis that volatiles emanating from cassava plants infested by green mites (Mononychellus tanajoa) trigger sporulation in three isolates of the acaropathogenic fungus Neozygites tanajoae. Tests were conducted under climatic conditions optimal to fungal conidiation, such that the influence of the plant volatiles could only alter the quantity of conidia produced. For two isolates (Altal.brz and Colal.brz), it was found that, compared with clean air, the presence of volatiles from clean, excised leaf discs suppressed conidia production. This suppressive effect disappeared in the presence of herbivore-damaged leaves for the isolate Colal.brz. For the third isolate, no significant effects were observed. Another experiment differing mainly in the amount of volatiles showed that two isolates produced more conidia when exposed to herbivore-damaged leaves compared with clean air. Taken together, the results show that volatiles from clean plants suppress conidiation, whereas herbivore-induced plant volatiles promote conidiation of N. tanajoae. These opposing effects suggest that the entomopathogenic fungus tunes the release of spores to herbivore-induced plant signals indicating the presence of hosts.

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